Cosmic Evolution and Universal Evolutionary Principles

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* Article: Cosmic Evolution and Universal Evolutionary Principles. By Leonid Grinin. In: Evolution Almanac: Evolution: From Big Bang to Nanorobots.



"The present article attempts at combining Big History potential with the potential of Evolutionary Studies in order to achieve the following goals:

1) to apply the historical narrative principle to the description of the star-galaxy era of the cosmic phase of Big History;

2) to analyze both the cosmic history and similarities and differences between evolutionary laws, principles, and mechanisms at various levels and phases of Big History.

As far as I know, nobody has approached this task in a systemic way yet. It appears especially important to demonstrate that many evolutionary principles, patterns, regularities, and rules, which we tend to find relevant only for higher levels and main lines of evolution, can be also applied to cosmic evolution."


"Some Evolutionary Ideas in Connection with the Star-Galaxy Phase of Evolution of the Universe

In the evolutionary process (and also as a whole in cosmic evolution) of formation of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and cosmic clouds one can distinguish a number of important evolutionary principles and laws that are not evident. Their detection is important for understanding the unity of principles of development of the Universe. Those principles and observations are grouped into several blocks.

· Evolution proceeds via constant creation and destruction of objects. Nature, when creating, destroying, and renewing various objects, ‘tests’ many versions, some of which turn out to be more effective and have more chances to succeed in terms of evolution. For such a situation of selection within constant destruction and creation process, it appears possible to apply a rather appropriate notion of ‘creative destruction’ introduced by Josef Schumpeter (2007).

· ‘Evolution is stronger than individual objects’. Cosmic processes are accompanied with constant emergence, development, change, and death of various objects (stars, galaxies, and so on). Thus, here one can point as relevant the principle that was expressed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1987) with respect to life in the following way: ‘life is stronger than organisms’, that is, life goes on exactly because organisms are mortal. The same is relevant to stellar evolution. We may say here that the cosmos is stronger than stars and galaxies; and in general, evolution is stronger than individual objects.

· Rotation and keeping balance take place due to constant destruction (or transition to new phases in the lifecycle) of some objects and the emergence of the others. This keeps balance and creates conditions for development, because development is a result of change of generations and species.

· In every end there is a beginning. Star-evolutionary ‘relay race’. The material of dead objects becomes building blocks for the formation of new objects. This represents the circulation of matter and energy in nature; on the other hand, this represents a sort of ‘relay race’. The latter allows using the results of long-lasting processes, in particular, the accumulation of heavy elements (for example, the Solar System was formed from the remnants after the explosion of a supernova; that is believed to be one of the reasons of the presence of great number of heavy and super-heavy elements on the Earth and other planets).Thus, we deal here with the above mentioned ‘creative destruction’ – the creation of new objects due to the destruction of the old ones. Furthermore, the new objects are different from the old ones, and sometimes these differences are quite apparent. It ensures continuity and provides new forms with space for advancement (e.g., the change of generations of biological organisms always results in certain transformations). The change of rulers may not necessarily lead to radical social changes; however, each new ruler is somehow different from his predecessor, as a result the accumulation of historical experience occurs.

· New generations of organisms and taxa are the ways of qualitative development. One may also detect generations of taxa, which already have significant evolutionary and systemic differences. Thus, generations of stars differ in terms of their size, chemical composition, and other characteristics. Only through the change of several generations of objects this class of objects acquires some features that, nevertheless, are considered to be typical for the whole class of objects. (Thus, species in biology are determined by the impossibility to sire with the representatives of other species. However, many species reproduce asexually).

1. Individuality as a way to increase evolutionary diversity

· Ontogenesis and phylogenesis. The evolution proceeds at various levels: through the development of its certain branch, a certain class, species and so on (and sometimes even at the level of an individual organism). Besides, if apply biological terminology, at every level of evolution we find a combination of processes of ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Of course, within star-galaxy evolution the phylogenesis is represented much weaker than in the evolution of life. Nevertheless, it still appears possible to speak about the history of transformation of certain types of galaxies and stars, and, hence, up to a certain extent the cosmic phylogenesis does occur (see as above with respect to change of a few generations of stars and galaxies that differ from each other as regards their size, structure, and composition).

· The phases of individual development (ontogenesis) – myriads of different paths. Every type of objects has their own regular phases of life which depend on both internal characteristics of the object and the environment (proximity of other objects, etc.). As we have already seen, stars depending on their mass, composition and other characteristics have very different duration of the phase which is called the main sequence (from several tens of millions of years to 10–15 billion of years and even more). As was mentioned above, the fate of stars at the last stage of their life also depends on their mass and other circumstances. Depending on this they can turn into the White Dwarf, become a neutron star or a Black Hole.

· Required and excessive variation as conditions of a search for new evolutionary trajectories. Within the processes described above one can observe the formation of the taxonomic diversity of the objects; we may even speak about occupying the evolutionary ‘niches’. There emerge the types of stars which have different mass, luminosity (accordingly, different spectrum/color of the light), temperature, system (single stars, planet systems and systems of stars from two to seven), period of rotation, magnetic field, etc. The same refers to the galaxies among which one can distinguish a number of types (elliptical, spiral, and lenticular) and subtypes. Such diversity is extremely important. Only the achievement of a necessary level of taxonomic and other diversity allows a search for ways to new evolutionary levels. This is sometimes denoted as the rule of necessary and excessive diversity (see Grinin et al. 2008: 68–72; for more details see also Panov 2008).

· Norm, averages, and deviation from a norm. Only when we find a sufficient diversity, it appears possible to speak about norm, average level, exceptions, and outliers. Scientists have long known that the breakthroughs to new forms usually happen somewhere at a distance from the former main directions, at the periphery (see the next part about the structure), and in those systems that diverge from the previous mainstream.

· Continuity, which actually means the emergence of a continuum of forms, sizes, life spans, and lifecycles, is rather characteristic for space objects. Thus, the stars can be presented as a continuum from heavier to lighter ones, whereas the latter become hardly distinguishable from planets, their temperature does not contribute to the thermonuclear reactions, etc. The types of planetary systems uniformly cover a wide range of parameters. There is also a sequence of phases in the transformation of cosmic clouds into stars: condensation of clouds – formation of protostars – formation of young stars, and up to the death of stars. A wide range (a continuum) of forms and sizes of objects may be observed at geological, biological, and social phases of the evolution.

2. Object, environment, competition, development systems, and self-preservation

· The relations between structure and environment. Multilevel systems (galaxy – galaxy cluster – galaxy supercluster) act as a system of a higher order for stars, and, simultaneously, they create an environment that produces an enormous influence on those stars. A star directly interacts with its immediate environment (e.g., with neighboring stars because of the strong gravity which affects the movement of both stars), whereas with the distant environment the interaction proceeds at its higher levels. Within star-galaxy evolution the environment generally produces less impact than at other evolutionary levels but nevertheless, it is highly important. For example, the role of the immediate environment is very important in systems of double, triple, or multiple stars. On the whole, single stars are separated by great distances and that is why they collide rather infrequently except for the center of the galaxies where star density is much higher. There occurs one collision once a million years (Shklovsky 1987: Ch. 1). For a small galaxy the influence of neighboring larger galaxy may turn out to be fatal, if it leads to its absorption. A star explosion close to clouds may (as we have seen) trigger the process of formation of stars and galaxies. The role of the environment is important for planets; the most important thing of this environment will be characteristics of a star and nearest planets as well as the influence of satellites and the danger of collisions.

With the development of a certain type of evolution, its own laws and environment gain a growing influence on the development of its subjects and actors. For example, both abiotic nature and the biotic environment influence biological organisms. However, within a complex ecological environment, it is the intraspecies and interspecies competition that may have larger influence than any other natural factors, whereas within a complex social environment it is just the social surrounding that affects individuals and social systems more than the natural forces do (though in consuming societies the role of influence of natural environment on people is much more important). Thus, with the formation of star-galaxy structure of the Universe there emerged macro-objects which start to interact with environments which are larger by many orders of magnitude.

· The formation of evolutionary driving forces of development. The study of cosmic evolution shows that evolutionary driving forces emerge just at this phase of evolution (although they turn to have small-scale impact on ‘progress’). Of course, evolutionary changes are determined by the influence of physical or chemical forces, but we observe them sometimes in the form of preadaptations. For example, the emergence of organic chemical compounds in the clouds of molecular gas exemplifies such a preadaptation. In principle such kinds of complex compounds do not play a significant role in cosmic evolution, but they are in the ‘reserves’ of development. It is of interest that a peculiar type of structure of such clouds which protect the molecules from cosmic radiation, makes their existence possible. In other words, special conditions are required for preadaptations. Preadaptations in biology often emerge in special environment. Thus, it is supposed that the transformation of crossopterygian fin, which gave rise to amphibians, into a limb occurred in terms of shrinking shallow water.

· ‘Struggle’ for preservation of forms. It is important to note that stars, galaxies and planets (as well as other celestial bodies) have their definite, quite structured, and preserved form. The ‘struggle’ for the preservation of those forms, the capacity to live and shine, the use of different layers to minimize energy losses lead to a slow but evident evolutionary development. This way the atomic composition of the Universe changes, whereas the diversity of variations of the existence of matter increases. The bilateral transition of matter to atomic (in hot bodies) or molecular state (in cold structures, in particular in the clouds of gas and on outer layers of stars) and vice-versa when forming from the giant clouds of stars is an outstanding manifestation of this type of evolution, a preparation for the formation of its biochemical and biological forms.

· The urge toward self-preservation and origins of the struggle for resources. The emergence of structures that strive for their preservation (as mentioned previously) creates a wide range of interaction between the system and its environment; on the other hand, this creates a basis for the ‘evolutionary search’ and evolutionary advancement. This evolutionary paradox, namely, that the struggle for the self-preservation is the most important source for development, can be observed here in its full-fledged form. However, the star-galaxy evolution demonstrates the emergence of this driving force which will become very important in biological evolution; and it appears to be the most important driving force in social evolution. This is the struggle for resources that among stars and galaxies may proceed in the form of weakening of another object or its destruction (e.g., through a direct transfer of energy and matter from one body to another, i.e. accretion), in the form of ‘incorporation’, ‘capturing’, that is ‘annexation’ of stars and star clusters by larger groups. We have already mentioned above galactic coalescences. Thus, some astronomers maintain that throughout a few billions of years our galaxy has ‘conquered, robbed, and submitted’ hundreds of small galaxies, as there are some evident ‘immigrants’ within our galaxy, including the second brightest star in the northern sky, Arcturus (Gibson and Ibata 2007: 30). It is widely accepted that emergence and expansion of a black hole may lead to the ‘eating’ of the matter of the nearby stars and galaxies. However, the ‘eating capacity’ of the black holes is greatly exaggerated in popular literature but this is quite excusable as black holes are very mysterious objects. In systems of double stars or in star-planet systems one may also observe such a form of interaction as the exchange of energy and resources.

· External factors as the triggers of transformations play a great role, for example passing by giant molecular clouds of a large celestial object, stellar explosion, etc. can start the process of stars and galaxies formation (i.e. become the trigger of gas concentration). Collisions between celestial bodies can cause the creation of new objects. Thus, it is supposed that the Moon was formed as a result of a collision of a large object with the Earth.

3. Multilinearity

Multilinearity is one of the most important characteristics of evolution.

Unfortunately, it does not get sufficient attention, and there is a tendency to reduce evolution to a single line – the one that has produced the highest complexity level, which is often interpreted as the main line of evolution. However, at every stage of evolutionary development one can find an interaction of a few lines that can have rather different futures. In other words, in addition to the main evolutionary line one can always identify a number of lateral ones. Firstly, they contribute to the increasing diversity; secondly, they allow expanding the range of search opportunities to move to new levels of development; thirdly, the lateral lines may partly enter the main evolutionary stream, enriching it. We quite often deal with two or more coexisting and comparable lines of development whose convergence may lead to a quantitative breakthrough and synergetic effect. Various lines of development may transform into each other. Elsewhere we have written a lot on the issue of social evolution in this context (see, e.g., Korotayev et al. 2012; Grinin 2011).

· Classical forms and their analogues.

The main and lateral lines of evolution may be considered in two dimensions:

1) horizontal (as regards complexity and functions),

2) vertical (concerning the version that would be realized later at higher evolutionary phases).

It appears also possible to speak about classical versions and their analogues. Thus, various forms of aggregation and specialization of unicellulars can be regarded as analogues of multicellulars (see Eskov 2006), whereas various complex stateless polities can be regarded as state analogues (see Grinin and Korotayev 2009; Grinin 2011, 2012 for more details). Classical forms and their analogues can transform into each other; however, these are just the analogues that tend to transform into classical forms, rather than the other way round (the latter may be regarded both as a direct degeneration and as a forced adaptation to sharply changing conditions).[10]

· Stars and molecular clouds: two parallel forms of existence of cosmic matter. In this respect we may consider stars and galaxies as the main line of evolution and the giant clouds as its lateral lines; also the former may be designated as ‘classical forms’, and the latter may be defined as ‘analogues’. In fact, on the one hand, galaxies and stars emerge from giant molecular clouds. On the other hand, as we have seen, these clouds have the same gravitational force and even structural complexity as stars and galaxies[11] have. And they are also able to concentrate, to take part in the energy exchange, etc. They also exceed the stars in the level of organization of elementary particles as the molecules are concentrated in the clouds, and there is the concentration of elementary particles and atom's nuclei in the stars.[12] Besides, stars when losing the matter, shedding its envelopes and through the explosion transform into gas-dust clouds, i.e. into interstellar gas which forms the molecular clouds.



Evolution of the Physical Universe Before the Emergence of Life

Leonid Grinin:

"The formation of modern structure of the Universe lasted for many billions of years when our Universe ‘lived’ for quite a long period of time without any stars, galaxies, Hubble's law, clusters and superclusters of galaxies (Khvan 2008: 302). Now it is recognized that the first stars and galaxies turn out to have emerged much earlier. According to the latest astronomical observations, the first galaxies emerged not later than several hundred million years after the Big Bang. In what follows we will consider this in detail. What was the matter from which they had emerged?

* Tiny Material for the Formation of Giants: About the Gas-Dust Clouds and Cosmic Dust

Approximately 270,000 years after the Big Bang, a large phase transition occurred resulting in the emergence of matter in the form of atoms of hydrogen and helium. Later, they started to consolidate in new structures. The main mass of this matter concentrated in gas-dust clouds that could be of tremendous sizes (dozens parsecs, or even more).[1] At present we usually speak of such cosmic fractions as interstellar gas and cosmic dust. They can be both in vacuum condition and in the form of clouds. But as is known the observed today clouds consist mainly of equal proportions of gas and dust. That is why they are usually called gas-dust clouds.

For the first time we observe Nature in the role of a constructor. Before that, it had formed just the basic elements. Now one could observe the emergence of enormous structures from tiny particles and ‘specks of dust’. Later one could constantly observe similar processes in evolutionary developments: large-scale structures are composed of myriads of minute particles and grains.

Minor factors are also necessary for structuring. The formation of clouds (and later of stars and galaxies) involved concentrating of matter on enormous scale, which could have been caused only by gravity. However, this only force is insufficient for structuring, because in ‘an absolutely homogenous universe the emergence of large-scale structures (galaxies and their clusters) is impossible’ (Dolgov et al. 1998: 12–13). Thus, certain ‘seed grains’ are needed, similar to the process of formation of rain drops emerging around particles of dust or soot; or the formation of a pearl around grit.

Small fluctuations are often needed for the powerful forces to start working. Actually, minor fluctuations (minute deviations from homogeneity and isotropy) occurred in the Universe from the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang. Then the larger fluctuations happened. They could act as seed grains for the formation of galaxies. However, it is not clear what kind of fluctuations caused the formation of galaxies and what the mechanism of their formation is. In other fields of evolution initial fluctuations also often remain a mystery.

Thus, the non-uniformity (including the non-uniformity connected with different concentration) is one of the main foundations of development and evolution at all its stages and in all its forms. Any major evolutionary shift in biological and social matter at a certain stage of evolution is necessarily connected with some form of accumulation or concentration when matter becomes abundant and occupies certain niches (the periods which are similar to the first stages after the Big Bang). The higher the stage of evolution, the more important it is. Thus, in a large-scale system the common processes may proceed in their usual way, whereas in the concentration zone some peculiar processes start (as it takes place in the stellar formation zones).

* The Epoch of Formation of the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe. First Galaxies and Stars

Dark and light matter. Nowadays it is generally accepted that dark matter plays an important role in the formation of the first galaxies, as it appeared capable of much quicker consolidation into clusters than the light (baryonic) matter. The latter could not condense until the end of the hydrogen recombination (atom formation) due to radiation pressure (270,000 years after the Big Bang). Only when hydrogen nuclei and electrons were able to merge and form atoms, whereas photons separated from the matter and flew away, the radiation pressure dramatically decreased to zero. As a result, the light matter would fall in potential holes prepared by the dark matter. Perhaps, we observe here a very interesting evolutionary pattern. Nevertheless, the non-evolutionary dark matter initially appeared to be more capable to structuring than the light matter, but the progress of the former toward structuring turned out to be very short and almost leading to a dead-lock. However, as with any evolutionary dead end, this does not mean an absolute stagnation. At present, in galaxy halos the dark matter continues structuring in certain smaller structures, the so-called clumps and sub halos (see, e.g., Diemand et al. 2008). Meanwhile, the evolutionary potential of the light matter was based on the ‘achievements of the dark matter’. Such a model of development is rather typical for evolution. For example, long before the transition to agriculture some gatherers of cereal plants invented many things (including tools, granaries, and grinding stones) that later turned to be rather useful for agriculturalists, but the hunter-gathering mode still turned out to be an evolutionary dead end.

There are rather diverse opinions on the timing and characteristics of the process and sequence of formation of stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters and superclusters.

The galaxy protoclusters are supposed to have been the first to originate. As Ph. J. E. Peebles (1980: 389–390) notes, ‘The same process could operate on a larger scale, the first generation of gas clouds being protoclusters that fragmented to form galaxies, some clusters dissolving to produce field galaxies. A sequence of this general sort has appealed to many authors’. Such phenomena take place at higher levels of evolution when something general is formed (which will turn into a larger taxon in future) that later differentiates into primary level taxa. The species and classes in biology form in this way. The same refers to a society: at first there emerge rather large formations such like families of languages and then the languages, ethnic super-groups and then ethnoses, and sometimes large early empires or states; and afterwards within their framework statehood goes one or two levels down. In other words, there emerges a non-differentiated large structure which is capable to produce a great number of peculiar structures.

However, a more commonly held hypothesis suggests that protogalaxies (in the form of giant condensed gas clouds) were the first to emerge within the structure of the Universe, and later they became the birthplace for individual stars and other structural elements (see, e.g., Gorbunov and Rubakov 2012: 27). However, in recent years new evidence has come to hand to support the idea that those were the stars that appeared first. This discovery somehow modified the previous theories. As a result, at present it is widely accepted that the stars were first to emerge, but those were the giant stars, much more massive than most of the later-formed ones (May et al. 2008). Because of the absence of carbon, oxygen and other elements that absorb the energy from condensing clouds, the process proceeded more slowly in that epoch; thus, only giant clouds could condense producing massive stars hundreds times larger than the Sun (Ibid.). Nowadays there are also such giants of 100–200 solar masses but they are considered unstable (see Surdin and Lamzin 1992). We will see below that the larger is star, the shorter is its life. Thus, such giant stars lived only a few million years. In addition, the first stars contained a small amount of heavy elements. Thus, more than one generation of stars could change, until the quantity of heavy elements gradually increased. The emergence of ‘heavy elements’ from the ‘dead star stellar remnants’ resembles the formation of fertile soil from the remnants of dead plants. The circulation of matter in the Universe is always observed everywhere and at all levels.

In recent years we have witnessed the discovery of a few galaxies that are claimed to be the oldest in the Universe. Meanwhile, the dates of formation of the first galaxies are shifted closer and closer to the Big Bang. The emergence of the first galaxies is dated to less than 400 million years after the Big Bang; and there are even claims that some more ancient galaxies have been discovered. They are claimed to have emerged only 200 million years after the Big Bang.[2]

The evidence on the first stars refers to c. 150–200 million years after the Big Bang; hence, stars and galaxies appear to have emerged almost simultaneously. Since that time depending on its density the matter in the Universe coexists in three main types: in dense state in celestial bodies, in rarefied state in the clouds of different size, and in low-density state (in tens of times compared to the clouds) in interstellar gas.


The formation of galaxies and their clusters, as well as of stars and other celestial bodies was the longest evolutionary process that had ever taken place in the Universe. At present we observe that this process is still going on alongside changes and disappearance of galaxies and stars. During the first eight billions years, the formation of huge diversity of stellar bodies and new heavy elements took place in the Universe until about 5–4.5 billion years ago there the conditions were formed for the formation of stellar (Solar) system. On one of its planets there started new geological, chemical and biochemical processes."


Evolutionary Principles of the Structure of the Universe

Leonid Grinin:

"The Structure of the Universe in the Past and Present

Evolutionary principles of the structure of the Universe.

Thus, the formation of the large-scale structure of the Universe has not occurred at once. Formation of galaxies and their clusters, probably, was the process which had lasted for billions years.

There are several evolutionary principles in the characteristics of the structure of the Universe which are well traced at all levels of evolution. But we will consider only two of them.

1. The combination of antagonistic features. In the structure of the Universe one can find the combination of uniformity and non-uniformity. The uniformity is already manifested at the inflation phase, when the Universe started inflating evenly in all dimensions. The uniformity has preserved till present, but only at the largest scale (of an order of magnitude of 100 megaparsecs). For reference, the size of the largest galaxy clusters (such as our Local Group with the center in the Virgo constellation) is 40 megaparsecs at most (Gorbunov and Rubakov 2011). The non-uniformity of the Universe is manifested at scales smaller than 100 megaparsecs; and the smaller is the scale, the more salient is the non-uniformity. The combination of antagonistic features is a phenomenon that is rather characteristic for many other evolutionary levels. Thus, the antagonistic features of ‘even surface’ and ‘uneven surface’ are quite applicable to the Earth surface: at bird's eye it looks even.

2. Density and sparsity can be traced everywhere, starting from the atomic structure, where the mass is concentrated in a tiny nucleus, while most of the atom is an empty space. There is a huge non-uniformity between the scale of the Universe and the space that the main mass of (at least, baryonic) matter occupies within it. At the present stage of evolution of the Universe its matter is concentrated, first of all, in stars which actually occupy only a 10–25 part of the total volume of the Universe (not taking into account the galaxy nuclei [Pavlov 2011: 43]). Were there such proportions in ancient Universe? Maybe, not. Therefore, the concentration of the matter is strengthening. Not only the hard matter is distributed very unevenly throughout the Universe; the same is true of the gas. Much of this gas is concentrated in giant molecular clouds which are of many thousands of solar masses (Lipunov 2008: 37). At the same time the difference in density is fractal, which is especially evident in the zones of high density. The factors contributing to such unevenness are not always clear; for example, it is not clear, what the uneven distribution of masses during the formation of galaxies (Weinberg 1975: 608) as well as many other processes of distribution, concentration and dissipation are connected with. But the principles of uneven distribution of the matter mass at different evolutionary levels are rather similar. For example, at present the main mass of the Earth's population is concentrated in a rather small territory in comparison with the total territory where life on the Earth is possible."